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OPTISOCHEM consortium complete first production of isobutene from wheat straw at demo scale

France-headed advanced biofuels and biochemical process developer Global Bioenergies has announced that runs using wheat straw hydrolysate provided by its OPTISOCHEM project partner Clariant were successfully performed in Global Bioenergies Leuna demo plant in Germany, leading to the production of cellulosic isobutene for the first time at this scale.

France-headed advanced biofuels and biochemical process developer Global Bioenergies has announced that runs using wheat straw hydrolysate provided by its OPTISOCHEM project partner Clariant were successfully performed in Global Bioenergies Leuna demo plant in Germany, leading to the production of cellulosic isobutene for the first time at this scale.

The Bio-Based Industry-Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU), a public-private partnership between the European Union and the Bio-Industries Consortium (BIC), is dedicated to realizing the European bio-economy potential, turning biological residues and wastes into greener everyday products through innovative technologies and biorefineries expected to become the heart of the bioeconomy.

The BBI-JU selected the project OPTimized conversion of residual wheat straw to bio-ISObutene for bio-based CHEMicals (OPTISOCHEM), grant agreement No. 744330, in the frame of the European Union (EU) Horizon 2020 (H2020) programme for research and innovation, following a “very selective and competitive” process led by independent experts.

Valourizing wheat straw in biochemical value-chains

These test runs were part of the OPTISOCHEM project which started in June 2017 and was granted EUR 9.8 million by BBI-JU as part of the EU H2020 research and innovation programme.

During this first period, we successfully increased the performances of our micro-organism on traditional substrates such as sucrose and adapted our best microbial chassis to straw hydrolysates. We successfully run our pilot facility in Pomacle (France) and our demo facility in Leuna (Germany) both with straw hydrolysate and sucrose as a benchmark. We expect to produce several tons of bio-isobutene on this new non-conventional feedstock in the remaining periods of the project, said Frederic Pâques, COO of Global Bioenergies.

The aim of the project is to demonstrate a new value chain combining Global Bioenergies bio-Isobutene process with technologies developed by Clariant and INEOS, two of Europe’s leading chemical companies.

OPTISOCHEM is demonstrating a key value chain within the bioeconomy: advanced biorefineries based on agricultural residues. From our pre-commercial plant in Straubing (Germany) we have supplied cellulosic sugars in tonnes scale to Global Bioenergies’ facilities for conversion to bio-isobutene during the first period of the project. We are very pleased with the excellent results from all partners and will continue to provide additional quantities in the next phases so as to prepare for eventual commercial production in the future, said Markus Rarbach, Head of Biofuels & Derivatives of Clariant.

Currently underutilized, residual wheat straw has been converted at demo scale into second generation renewable bio-isobutene, and will eventually be transformed into oligomers and polymers usable in lubricants, rubbers, cosmetics, solvents, plastics, or fuels applications. The intense R&D cooperation will continue until May 2021.

Our sites have over fifty years of experience in the production of oligomers and polymers of isobutene which are used in lubricants, rubbers, cosmetics, plastics, solvents, and fuels. To date, we received several batches of bio-isobutene from Global Bioenergies for qualification purpose, and the quality is promising. During the next phase of the project, INEOS is ready to evaluate conversion of additional quantities of bio-isobutene into downstream products in order to assess the potential of this bio-based feedstock as a building block for end consumer applications, said Jean-François Boideau, EMEA Commercial General Manager at INEOS Oligomers.

OPTISOCHEM focuses on the demonstration of a new value chain, based on the combination of the technologies and know-how of the participants from four EU member states:

  • Conversion of straw into glucose- and xylose-rich hydrolysates by Clariant sunliquid technology (Germany),
  • Fermentation of the straw hydrolysates into bio-isobutene by Global Bioenergies (France and Germany),
  • Conversion of bio-isobutene into oligomers and polymers by INEOS (Germany and France),
  • Preliminary engineering of an hydrolysate-to-isobutene plant and overall integration with a straw-to-hydrolysate plant, by TechnipFMC and IPSB (France), and
  • Assessment of the sustainability and environmental benefits by the Energy Institute at the JKU Linz (Austria).

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